What is the Purpose of a Survey? Why Conduct a Survey?
At one time or another, most people have received and completed a survey. We often fill them out without really thinking too much about it. But have you ever wondered what is the real purpose of a survey? Why a business might really conduct a survey? The truth is, surveys come in many different forms and can also have many objectives.
In fact, surveys are actually an extremely important business tool when used correctly. Whether it’s trying to gauge customer satisfaction, collect information and ideas, or measure staff engagement, all successful businesses use surveys. So, let’s take a look at the real purpose of a survey.
Who uses surveys? And, what is the survey purpose?
A better question might be ‘who doesn’t use surveys?’ All types of businesses use surveys every day, for a wide range of functions. Internally, companies regularly use employee surveys to measure staff engagement. They may also use 360-degree feedback and SWOT Analysis surveys to seek input into what’s working well and what isn’t.
Externally, businesses often send surveys to customers at different touch points. The most common is after a purchase, to measure customer satisfaction. However, a business will call upon customers regularly to find out how loyal they are, and also gain ideas on how to improve their products and services.
Business consultants also frequently use surveys to form the basis of their work with companies.
What are some common types of surveys?
The list of surveys you can use in business is almost endless. While there’s plenty of common surveys, there’s almost no limit to what you can ask. Most businesses, however, favour tried and tested surveys because it’s easier to analyse the results and plan action accordingly. Some common surveys are:
- Employee pulse survey
- Employee engagement survey
- Leadership team review
- 360-degree feedback
- SWOT analysis
- Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)
- Brand awareness
- School evaluations
- Customer satisfaction
- Employee exit survey
- Market research
- Board performance survey
- Project review
Most of these surveys can be customised to suit an individual goal, while some, like Net Promoter Score® ask very specific questions. This is because such surveys have a universal scoring system.
The purpose of a survey
Firstly, it’s important to understand that every survey has its own purpose. So, understanding the purpose of a survey is actually a crucial step in using them effectively. You need to start with a clear survey goal and objectives. Surveys are designed to ask certain questions, with the hope of extracting specific information from respondents. For example, an employee engagement survey’s goal is to discover how to boost staff satisfaction and performance. Customer loyalty surveys are designed to measure how likely your customers are to refer you to friends and colleagues. While the goal of other customer surveys may be to check how you did on a certain process, such as sales and delivery.
Every survey has a different purpose, however there are some common threads through all of them, which we’ll explore further below.
Recognise what you’re doing well
Surveys aren’t all about doom and gloom. Many companies make the mistake of only using surveys when things are going poorly. But surveys should be used regularly to capture what you’re doing well. Not only is it a good motivator to keep doing those things well, it also gives you a great idea of where your strengths are and how you can build on them.
If you use surveys in good times and bad, you also get accurate results that are measurable from year to year. For example, if customer satisfaction results have changed, you can delve deeper to find out why. If you only use surveys when things are going well, you don’t really have a reference point to see what’s changed.
Get feedback and ideas to understand areas for improvement
Naturally, surveys aren’t all about giving yourself a pat on the back either. They’re a chance to get honest feedback on what you’re not doing so well. This applies to both organisational surveys and customer surveys. It’s impossible to please everybody, but surveys are great for showing you the trends.
Rather than letting poor survey results get you down, you can actually treat them as a great opportunity. If staff are telling you that management aren’t supportive, you’ve got an opportunity to address it head on and ask why. If a large number of customers are frustrated by the navigation on your website, that’s great, because it’s a clear indication of something you can fix.
Surveys give people a voice
Customers love to connect with businesses and feel that their opinion makes a difference. Likewise, staff want to feel like their concerns are being listened to. Surveys give a voice to the key groups responsible for your success. Happy staff are more productive, that’s been proven time and time again. So, if you let them voice their concerns and share ideas for improvement, you’ll find them much more engaged. Provided you act on their feedback.
Customers are much the same. They like feeling part of something, and they make a closer connection with businesses who engage with them. Surveys let them talk about their experience, and also gives you a chance to directly address any major service issues.
The purpose of a survey is to boost performance
Ultimately, the main purpose of a survey is to increase performance. Whether it’s individual performance, leadership, or the organisation as a whole. Even customer surveys have the end-goal of improving your processes to boost the performance of your whole business. For sports clubs and schools, member and member surveys look to discover how improvements can be made. Even board surveys are in place to improve the effectiveness of the board. Regardless of what industry you’re in, surveys can boost performance by getting everybody on the same page. Issues can be identified and addressed, while strengths can be celebrated and built upon. Not many businesses succeed if they don’t listen to the voices of their customers and staff, so it makes sense to use surveys effectively. The most important thing though, is to ensure identifiable actions come from any survey. If you’re going to run surveys, make sure you analyse the results critically, and be willing to use them as a catalyst for positive change.
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